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Am Heart J. 2005 May;149(5):894-901.

Assessment of patients with low-risk chest pain in the emergency department: Head-to-head comparison of exercise stress echocardiography and exercise myocardial SPECT.

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  • 1Emergency Medicine Department and Chest Pain Unit, Careggi Hospital, Florence, Italy. aaaconti@hotmail.com



The aim of the study was to compare head-to-head the performance of exercise tolerance test-stress echocardiography (ex-Echo) and exercise stress-perfusion nuclear imaging (exercise-single-photon emission computed tomography [ex-SPECT]) for the diagnosis of coronary artery disease (CAD) in patients evaluated at the chest pain unit with delay from chest pain (CP) onset.


As an early triage strategy for CAD in emergency medicine, ex-Echo could have the advantage of widespread availability and low costs.


In the years 2000-2002, 503 consecutive patients (mean age 60 years) with recent (<24 hours) CP and nonischemic electrocardiogram (ECG), in whom CAD remained undiagnosed after first line 6-hour work-up including serum markers of myocardial injury and resting echocardiogram, underwent ex-Echo and ex-SPECT within 24 hours. Patients with (+)ex-Echo or (+)ex-SPECT or (+)ex-ECG or abnormal troponin I were referred to coronary angiography; otherwise, they were discharged and followed up. End points were coronary stenosis > or =50% and cardiovascular events at 6-month follow-up.


Ninety-nine patients (20%) had (+)ex-Echo and 121 (24%) (+)ex-SPECT; CAD was diagnosed in 81% and 67%, respectively; positive tests were concordant in 69%. In negative ex-Echo and ex-SPECT, final evidence of CAD emerged in 14 and 13, respectively. Ex-Echo demonstrated higher accuracy than ex-SPECT (93% +/- 1% vs 89% +/- 1%), optimal specificity (95% +/- 5% vs 90% +/- 5%), and positive predictive value (81% +/- 4% vs 67% +/- 4%); moreover, in the case of (-)ex-ECG, observed effective likelihood ratio indicates a (+)synergy between ex-ECG and ex-Echo.


Ex-Echo can be an effective diagnostic strategy in the early triage of CP patients, improving diagnosis in case of (-)ex-ECG and reducing unnecessary angiography number. Its drawback is represented by the 5% of missed diagnosis.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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